Rare London fashion label goes into administration


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Instagram/officialrarelondon

Image caption

Sam Faiers poses in a Rare London dress

Customers have been left “fuming” after a fashion label modelled by celebrities went bust.

Rare London announced on Facebook that administrators had decided it should cease trading, making staff redundant.

Customers took to the site to complain they had not received ordered items or refunds for returned goods.

A statement by the company said they would have to make a claim against the insolvent estate to get their money back.

The fashion label has 115,000 followers on Instagram and is also stocked by retailers Asos, Topshop and Next.

Photos on social media show its clothing has been modelled by reality TV celebrities including The Only Way is Essex star Sam Faiers, Made In Chelsea’s Louise Thompson and Love Island’s Kady McDermott.

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Instagram/officialrarelondon

Image caption

An Instagram post shows Louise Thompson wearing a swimsuit by Rare London

In a statement posted on Facebook on Monday, Rare London said administrators from Duff & Phelps Ltd were appointed on 26 July.

“The joint administrators had to take the unfortunate decision to cease to trade the company with immediate effect making all staff redundant.”

The label told customers who had recently placed an order or were awaiting a refund to contact their bank or credit card company to see if they could get their money back through them.

“In the event that you are unable to secure a refund of the monies paid then you will need to make a claim against the insolvent estate as this balance will rank [as] an unsecured claim against the company,” it added.

Many customers took to Facebook to express anger that they had recently ordered items or asked for refunds and were now left out of pocket.

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Facebook/officialrarelondon

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Customers have expressed their frustration after Rare announced it had gone bust

Several commented that they had bought items in a 50% sale and had not received the goods.

Natalie Wilson wrote: “So so bad!!!! Me and two friends ordered a few items and need to return goods!!! So now we are left with unwanted items that we will not be getting a refund for!!!”

Claire Claire wrote: “They knew they was going bust but carried on advertising and taking our money knowing that none of us was going to receive orders. Promoting flash birthday sale of 50% off….”

Claire Gwynne said: “Fuming. Returned 2 dresses a month ago, never had any refund in a month so you knew back then that things weren’t right! £136.”

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Facebook/Stacey Cave

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Stacey Cave says she never received the items she ordered during a sale on the Rare London website

Stacey Cave, 30, from Stoke-on-Trent, ordered three items from Rare London on 23 July for a holiday in Cyprus after being told by a friend it was holding a sale.

“It was only £40 but I was banking on those things to take away with me tomorrow. So now I’ve got to go out tonight and find some more stuff to take away with me,” she said.

“Good job I’ve paid on my credit card because hopefully I’ll be able to try and get the money back. I’m gutted because they obviously must’ve known but they’re still taking people’s money.”

Ms Cave did not think there was any problem with the items as she received an email from a courier company to say they were on their way.

However, she after finding that she could not get on to the company’s website on Monday, she saw the news online.

“I was shocked. Yeah it’s only £40 but that’s not the point. I can’t see how they can get away with it.

“I know there’s people who spent over £200 and they’ve been waiting a month for a refund.”



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UK-Based 'Email Prankster' Tricks White House Officials


The prankster sent mails to White House staff posing as various people, notably Jared Kushner

Washington:  Senior officials at the White House were tricked by a self-described UK-based “email prankster” and made at least one cyber security official believe that he was Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law.

The prankster managed to present himself as White House senior adviser Kushner, former chief of staff Reince Priebus and recently-nominated ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman Jr. In one set, the prankster posed as Mr Kushner in a message sent to Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert.

“Tom, we are arranging a bit of a soiree towards the end of August,” the fake Kushner on an Outlook account wrote to the official White House email account of Mr Bossert, the CNN reported.

Mr Bossert wrote back: “Thanks, Jared. With a promise like that, I can’t refuse. Also, if you ever need it, my personal email is” (redacted).

The email prankster said he was surprised Mr Bossert responded given his expertise.

White House officials acknowledged the incidents and said they were taking the matter seriously.

“We take all cyber related issues very seriously and are looking into these incidents further,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

Cyber experts said the incidents are illustrative of how vulnerable Americans — even those in the highest reaches of power — remain to the potential threat of spear-phishing, the process through which officials are duped by hackers, and expose government computers and systems to various cyber threats.

No one in any of these situations clicked any links making them vulnerable, and the prankster appears motivated by mischief not anything more malignant, so the severity of these White House pranks should not be overstated.

“This shows how susceptible government officials are to spear-phishing in general,” Adam Malone, a former cyber specialist and special agent for the FBI, said.

“Spear-phishing is the most common technique used by hackers to gain access to their victims. This information shines a light on how easy it is for people to build trust with unverified individuals,” Mr Malone said.

Former Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta infamously fell victim to such a trap, though the person who preyed on him had more nefarious intentions than mockery.

“I try and keep it on the humorous side of things,” the email prankster said.

“I’m not trying to get the keys to the vault or anything like that,” the prankster said.



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Export boost for UK manufacturing


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PA

A surge in export orders helped to lift manufacturing activity last month, according to a closely-watched survey.

The Markit/CIPS UK manufacturing purchasing managers’ index rose to 55.1 in July, up from 54.2 the month before. A figure above 50 indicates expansion.

The survey found export orders rose last month at the fastest pace since April 2010, and at the second highest rate since the survey began.

Markit said the weaker pound remained a “key driver” of export growth.

The pound jumped to a 10-month high against the US dollar after the publication of the report.

Interest rates

The figures revealed the first pick-up in growth for three months.

Rob Dobson, a director at Markit, said: “Although the exchange rate remains a key driver of export growth, manufacturers also benefited from stronger economic growth in key markets in the euro area, North America and Asia-Pacific regions.

“Continued expansion is also still filtering through to the labour market, with the latest round of manufacturing job creation among the best seen over the past three years.”

The Bank of England will make its latest decision on Thursday on whether to raise interest rates.

Mr Dobson added: “If this trend of milder price pressures is also reflected in other areas of the UK economy, this should provide the Bank of England sufficient leeway to maintain its current supportive stance until the medium-term outlook for economic growth becomes less uncertain.”

Economists warned that the figures would not necessarily boost wider UK growth.

Samuel Tombs of Pantheon Macroeconomics said: “Markit’s survey remains consistent with only modest growth in manufacturing output that will provide insufficient compensation for the slowdown in the consumer sectors of the economy.”

James Smith, an economist at ING, added: “Wider economic data, from the weak second-quarter growth reading to the latest dip in consumer confidence, suggests that the economy is losing speed.

“For that reason, we think the Bank of England is unlikely to hike rates this year.”



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The hi-tech badges made for hackers


Hi-tech badges made by “hackers” for “hackers” were in great demand at the recent Def Con cyber-security conference.

Hardware experts spent months creating the unofficial electronic wearables, which came complete with a mini processor, hidden “Easter eggs”, botnets and secret unlock codes to add features.

Owners could use their badges to hack similar devices around the conference for “lulz” – in other words to have fun at another’s expense.

BBC Click’s Catharina Moh met up with AND!XOR whose badges caught the attention of Def Con founder “Dark Tangent”.

See more at Click’s website and @BBCClick.



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Ancient Statue Unearthed At Cambodia's Angkor Complex


This handout photo shows statue from the complex in Siem Reap province. (AFP PHOTO / APSARA AUTHORITY)

Phnom Penh, Cambodia:  Archaeologists have unearthed a large, centuries-old statue that is believed to have once stood guard over an ancient hospital at Cambodia’s world-famous Angkor temple complex.

The nearly two-metre-tall artwork, which is thought to date from the late 12th to the early 13th century, was discovered during a dig on Saturday, said Long Kosal, a spokesman for Apsara Authority — the state agency charged with managing the complex.

The new find is the most significant statue discovery at Angkor since two giant Buddha carvings were unearthed in 2011, he added.

The Angkor Archeological Park, a world heritage site, contains the remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, dating from the 9th to the 15th centuries, and is Cambodia’s most popular tourist destination.

At the height of its power the city and its hundreds of temples boasted more than a million inhabitants, making it one of the world’s most populous pre-industrial centres.

Huge swathes of the park have been excavated over the decades, creating a walkable archaeological wonder that attracts more than two million visitors a year.

But the complex continues to yield new finds.

Cambodian archaeologists and experts from Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies found the statue buried 40 centimetres (16 inches) underground during an excavation of an Angkor-era hospital built during the reign of King Jayavarman VII.

The Apsara agency said the sandstone statue’s arms and legs had broken off but the carving on the body and head remain beautiful despite the passage of time.

They said the statue was likely to have been a symbolic guardian of the hospital.

Visitors to the Angkor complex encounter a dizzying array of temples, the earlier ones from when Hinduism was the dominant religion of the Khmer Empire and later ones after Buddhism had taken hold.

Archaeologists every year discover fresh data on the remarkable site. New recent research based on aerial laser scans has confirmed the existence of Mahendraparvata, an ancient temple city near Angkor Wat that has barely been excavated.

Updated scans published last year have uncovered iron smelting sites and complex waterways as well as temple foundations that are still to be explored.

The same year archaeologists also uncovered the remains of a 42-foot-long boat from the Angkor era which had been carved from a single tree trunk.  

Archaeologists are particularly excited by the discovery of Mahendraparvata because they believe much of what remains of the jungle-covered ancient city has not been looted.

During French colonial rule and the brutal Khmer Rouge regime (1975-79) many of Cambodia’s most priceless statues and archaeological treasures were looted, including those from Angkor.

The Cambodian government has spent years trying to trace the missing items, some of which have since been returned from museums in Europe and the United States.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)



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Eurozone economic growth gathering pace


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Reuters

The eurozone notched up growth of 0.6% in the second quarter of the year, official Eurostat figures showed.

The figure puts annual growth in the 19-country bloc at 2.1% since a year ago.

First-quarter growth was revised down slightly from 0.6% to 0.5%.

Other figures released on Monday showed unemployment in the zone was at its lowest since 2009, building on the picture of improving economic health across the area.

On Friday, figures showed Spain’s economy grew by 0.9% in the second quarter, suggesting the country’s economy had finally grown back to the size it was before the financial crisis.



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Pakistan Parliament To Elect Nawaz Sharif's Successor Today


Nawaz Sharif quit as Pak PM last week over corruption allegations; his successor will be chosen today

Islamabad:  Pakistan parliament is expected to vote today to elect a successor to three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who was last week disqualified from office by the Supreme Court over corruption allegations; resigned hours after the court order.  Former petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is poised to become new interim prime minister in a parliamentary vote.

The ruling party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) named Mr Sharif’s younger brother Shahbaz Sharif as his successor over the weekend, but he holds only a provincial seat, so must first enter parliament by contesting the seat left vacant by his elder sibling. He will also have to resign as member of the state legislative of Punjab and a new Chief Minister will have been identified.

In the meantime the party has nominated ex-oil minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as interim Prime Minister.

Pakistan’s opposition parties failed to agree on a joint candidate against PML-N’s Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

Mr Abbasi, the 58-year-old loyalist of Sharif, will hold the PM’s office for a period of 45 days and will resign to let Shahbaz succeed as permanent premier, party sources said.

The PML-N enjoys a majority in the parliament so Shahbaz’s ascension is expected to be smooth.

The Supreme Court on Friday disqualified 67-year-old Nawaz Sharif for dishonesty and ruled that corruption cases be filed against him and his children over the Panama Papers scandal, forcing the embattled leader out of office.

The publication of 11.5 million secret documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca documenting the offshore dealings of many of the world’s rich and powerful implicated three of Mr Sharif’s four children — daughter Maryam and sons Hasan and Hussein.

The court’s ruling abruptly ended Mr Sharif’s third tenure as prime minister and forced the party’s top leadership to find his successor.

Nawaz Sharif was the 15th prime minister in Pakistan’s 70-year history — roughly half of which was under military rule — to be ousted before completing a full term.



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JK Rowling apologises over Trump disabled boy tweets


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Reuters

Author JK Rowling has apologised for incorrectly accusing Donald Trump of ignoring a disabled boy.

A video emerged that appeared to show the US president refusing to shake the boy’s hand at the White House.

“How stunning, and how horrible, that Trump cannot bring himself to shake the hand of a small boy who only wanted to touch the president,” the author said.

But Marjorie Kelly Weer, mother of Monty, said Rowling’s interpretation of the clip was wrong.

The Harry Potter author tweeted: “Re: my tweets about the small boy in a wheelchair whose proffered hand the president appeared to ignore in press footage.

“Multiple sources have informed me that that was not a full or accurate representation of their interaction.

“I very clearly projected my own sensitivities around the issue of disabled people being overlooked or ignored onto the images I saw and if that caused any distress to that boy or his family, I apologise unreservedly.”

Rowling didn’t apologise to Mr Trump himself.

Mr Trump is said to have shaken the boy’s hand as the president entered the room.

Ms Weer wrote on Facebook: “If someone can please get a message to JK Rowling: Trump didn’t snub my son & Monty wasn’t even trying to shake his hand.”

She also said her son was not all that keen on shaking hands anyway.

Rowling has deleted her initial tweets on the subject.

Get news from the BBC in your inbox, each weekday morning



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High-heel wearing should not be forced, study says


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iStock

More needs to be done to stop women being forced to wear high heels at work, Aberdeen researchers have said.

Calls to introduce a law banning companies from telling women to wear high heels at work were rejected by the government in April.

The issue was debated after one woman who was sent home for wearing flat shoes set up a petition.

The University of Aberdeen researchers recommended further investigation into the issue.

The review examined research into the physical damage and injury that can be caused, as well as the social and cultural aspects surrounding the wearing of high heels.

It found large amounts of studies showed a link between wearing high heels and an increased risk of bunions, pain and injury.

However, it found a lack of clear evidence of an association between high heel wear and osteoarthritis.

Risks and benefits

The authors drew a distinction between the UK – where the government has pledged to develop guidelines and raise awareness that female workers should not be forced to wear high heels without introducing new legislation – and the Canadian province of British Columbia, which has amended legislation to now prohibit employers from requiring staff to wear high heels.

Dr Max Barnish, who led the research, said: “From our review it is clear that despite the huge amount of evidence showing heels are bad for individuals’ health, there are complex social and cultural reasons that make high-heel wearing attractive.”

Dr Heather Morgan, a lecturer at the University of Aberdeen, added: “Of course we are not trying to tell anyone that they should or shouldn’t wear high heels but we hope this review will inform wearers to help them weigh up the health risks with social benefits.”

She added that it was hoped the review would “put pressure on law makers to toughen up legislation so that no-one is forced against their will to wear them in the workplace or in licensed public social venues”.



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Britons On Trial For Singapore Stag Party Gang-Rape


All three, British citizens of Vietnamese descent, deny the allegations. (Representational Image)

Singapore:  Three British men went on trial in Singapore Tuesday accused of gang-raping a 23-year-old woman while visiting the city-state for a stag party.

Khong Tam Thanh, 22, Le Michael, 24, and Vu Thai Son, 24, face up to 20 years in jail and a caning if found guilty of assaulting the Malaysian woman while she was drunk and unconscious at the end of the night out.

All three, British citizens of Vietnamese descent, deny the allegations.

In an opening statement, prosecutors said the defendants were in Singapore in September as part of a group of nine for a bachelor party, and attended an electronic music festival called Ultra Singapore.

The groom, the brother of Khong, was also on the trip.

They met the woman in a popular nightspot in the city-state, where she had been partying with a friend.

After she had agreed to have sex with one of their friends, a British citizen of Vietnamese origin identified as Richard Ahn, he took her to his hotel room.

After the pair had sex, Khong, Le and Vu took turns to enter the room and raped the woman as she lay drunk and unconscious, the court heard.

“Having consented to having sexual intercourse with one individual, she was then raped by three other men,” Deputy Public Prosector G. Kannan told the Singapore High Court.

“Intoxicated and asleep, she was unaware of what was going on around her. She was taken advantage of and raped in quick succession by the three.”

The men took care to make as little noise as possible but the victim woke up as Le assaulted her, the court heard.

They all face one count each of raping the alleged victim in the early hours of September 10 last year. Khong and Vu, who work as beauticians in Britain, face additional charges of sexual assault by digital penetration. Le is unemployed.

Ahn, 24, absconded while under investigation. The alleged victim lives in Johor Bahru, the southern Malaysian city bordering Singapore. She cannot be named because of a court order protecting her identity.

Rape is punishable by up to 20 years in jail and caning, a punishment which dates back to British colonial rule.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)



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Direct Line leads FTSE 100 higher


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AFP

Direct Line led the market higher as investors welcomed the insurer’s half-year results.

Shares in the company jumped 7% after it reported a 9.5% increase in operating profits to £354.2m.

Direct Line was the biggest riser on the FTSE 100, with the index up 37.50 points at 7,409.50.

Rolls-Royce was another big riser, with its shares up nearly 6% after a big rise in engine deliveries helped it swing back to profit.

The aerospace giant said large engine deliveries were up by more than a quarter, savings were ahead of schedule and it was also on target to hit profit forecasts.

The company reported a pre-tax profit of £1.94bn for the first half of the year compared with a £2.15bn loss a year earlier.

Shares in British Gas owner Centrica were up 3% as the company announced it was raising household electricity prices by 12.5%.

In the currency markets, the pound slipped 0.1% against the dollar to $1.3206 but rose 0.2% against the euro to 1.1182 euros.



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Shortage of homes keeping prices high, says Nationwide


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PA

The shortage of homes coming on to the market is helping to keep house prices high, the Nationwide has reported.

The building society said that prices increased by 0.3% in July, the second month running there has been a rise.

Nationwide said the increase appeared to be at odds with recent signs of cooling in the housing market.

Over the last year, prices are up by 2.9%, slightly lower than last month’s rate of 3.1%.

Earlier this month, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) said estate agents had fewer properties on their books than at any time over the last 40 years.

“Constrained supply is likely to continue to provide support for house prices and, as a result, we continue to expect prices to rise by about 2% over 2017 as a whole,” said Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist.

HM Revenue and Customs reported that the number of housing transactions dropped to its lowest level for eight months in June.

And earlier this week, the Bank of England said the number of mortgage approvals in the month fell to a nine-month low of 65,000.

The average price of a house or flat in the UK is now £211,671, the Nationwide said.


Where can I afford to live?



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No Let-Up In Spying Amid Tit-For-Tat Russian Sanctions: US Official


US have faced trouble with Russian espionage, with their recent alleged role in the 2016 election

Washington:  Russia still runs a versatile spying campaign against the United States despite sanctions and daily publicity about Moscow’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election, the top US counter-intelligence official said in an interview.

William Evanina, the National Counterintelligence Executive, described a wide array of challenges his agency faces: hacking of government and industry secrets; industrial espionage; government employees and contractors who share secrets with the news media and groups such as WikiLeaks and foreign acquisition of strategic US industries.

Evanina spoke to Reuters on Friday, the same day that Russia retaliated in Cold War-era style to a new round of US sanctions by ordering Washington to cut diplomatic staff and said it was seizing two US diplomatic properties. Russian President Vladimir Putin said 755 people would have to leave their jobs, although many will be Russian nationals.

Congress voted overwhelmingly last week to further punish Russia over US intelligence agencies’ conclusions that Moscow had used cyber warfare and other methods to meddle in the election, something Putin has repeatedly denied. Last December, then-President Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats, sanctioned Russian intelligence agencies and personnel, and evicted Russian officials from two diplomatic compounds in the United States.

Evanina said that losing the compounds was a “significant blow to the Russians. Significant. And I’m not even sure we … can measure it.”

He said, however, that US agencies “have not seen a deterrence, or a drop – or an increase,” in Russian spying activity in the last year. “I can tell you, the FBI does not have less work.”

Still, Evanina acknowledged that in the tit-for-tat expulsions, the United States has more to lose than Moscow.

“We have a significantly … smaller footprint over there than they do here. It’s always going to be disproportionate.”

The United States has long pursued its own aggressive espionage and electronic surveillance operations against Russia and, before that, the Soviet Union. Russia’s cuts to U.S. personnel and property will shrink the diplomatic infrastructure that countries typically rely on to both conduct foreign affairs – and spy.

Evanina said Russian espionage strategy has shifted over the last five to seven years, no longer relying solely on intelligence officers formally employed by its spy agencies. Now, he said, it also involves dispatching businessmen, engineers and other travelers to the United States working as contractors for intelligence services.

Evanina declined to comment on US investigations into Moscow’s election year activities and whether President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian officials. Trump denies any collusion.

He said that in the past year, he has worked intensively with the US private sector to protect critical infrastructure and supply chains from foreign threats. Evanina suggested that the United States could soon adopt more stringent reviews of foreign acquisitions that have national security implications.

Reuters reported on July 20 that the secretive Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States has objected to at least nine acquisitions of US companies by foreign buyers so far this year, a historically high number that bodes poorly for China’s overseas buying spree.

(Reporting by Warren Strobel and John Walcott; editing by Grant McCool)
 

© Thomson Reuters 2017

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)



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Over 21 Lakh Indians Applied For H-1B Visas In 11 Years: Report


The average salary of H1-B Visa holders in the US has been $92,317 over the last 11 years

Washington:  More than 21 lakh Indian technology professionals have applied for H-1B work visas in the last 11 years, an official report has said.

The report of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has also refuted the impression that those who applied for the visa were not highly qualified.

On an average, their salary over the last 11 years has been $92,317 and an overwhelming majority of them are masters or bachelor’s degree holders.

According to the report, since 2007 till June this year, the USCIS received 3.4 million (34 lakh) H-1B visas applications, of which people from India accounted for 21 lakh. During the same period, the US issued H-1B visas to 26 lakh people, the USCIS said in its report, which however does not give countrywide breakdown.

In terms of the number of H-1B applications between 2007 and 2017, India is followed by a distant China with 2,96,313 H-1B applications, Philippines (85,918), South Korea (77,359), and Canada (68,228).

The report said the majority (23 lakh) of the beneficiaries of H-1B visas were in the age group of 25-34, and 20 lakh came from the computer related occupation category. Computer was followed by architecture, engineering, and surveying (318,670), education (244,000), administrative specialisations (245,000), and medicine and health (185,000).

Sometimes people post their retirement age have been given H-1B visas. In all these 11 years, more than 2,000 foreign nationals of more than 65 years of age received H-1B visas. This year alone so far 122 H-1B visas have been allocated to those above 65 years.

The report said custom computer programming services industry received the maximum number of 9,99,901 H-1B visas in these years. It was followed by computer systems design services (2,87,000) and college universities and professional schools (2,29,00).

Contrary to the general perception, the average salary of H-1B visas have increased significantly since 2007 when it was $68,159. In 2017, the average salary of H-1B visas holder foreign guest worker is $92,317.

The USCIS’s report was first reported by Breitbart news. “The USCIS date shows that between 2007 and 2017, the H-1B visa, which imports foreign workers to take American jobs, the programme has grown exponentially. The vast majority of visa-holders are from India,” Breitbart said, adding that roughly 70 to 80 per cent of the foreign workers imported every year are from India.

The Trump administration is currently reviewing the H-1B visa policy.



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British American Tobacco investigated by Serious Fraud Office


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Getty Images

UK tobacco firm British American Tobacco (BAT) says it is under official investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) over allegations it paid bribes in East Africa.

The allegations were first made in a BBC Panorama programme in 2015.

BAT said that it had been investigating the claims through external legal advisers and it had been co-operating with the SFO.

The firm said it also intended to co-operate with this formal investigation.

The Panorama programme alleged that BAT, whose brands include Dunhill and Pall Mall cigarettes, had made illegal payments to politicians and civil servants in East Africa.

The BBC was shown hundreds of secret documents purporting to show backhanders to various officials.

BAT said in a statement: “As previously announced, we are investigating, through external legal advisers, allegations of misconduct.

“We have been co-operating with the Serious Fraud Office (“SFO”) and British American Tobacco (“BAT”) has been informed that the SFO has now opened a formal investigation. BAT intends to co-operate with that investigation.”



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After Putin's Diktat, US Embassy Staff Complain Of Being 'Locked Out'


Moscow:  The US embassy in Moscow accused Russian authorities yesterday of barring diplomatic staff from a property on the outskirts of Moscow, after having earlier agreed to grant access until midday today for them to retrieve belongings.

A Russian foreign ministry official, quoted by state news agency RIA, said the US embassy had sent in its trucks without first obtaining permits which, the official said, are required by law because the property is in a conservation area.

The property, in a picturesque spot on a bend in the Moskva river northwest of the capital, is leased by the US embassy for its staff to use for recreation.

Moscow has said it is taking it back as part of retaliatory measures after Washington approved a fresh round of sanctions against Russia.

A Reuters TV cameraman outside the country residence, known in Russian as a dacha, saw five vehicles with diplomatic license plates, including a truck, arrive at the site. He said they were denied entry.

An embassy spokeswoman said: “In line with the Russian government notification, the US Mission to Russia was supposed to have access to our dacha until noon on August 1.”

“We have not had access all day today or yesterday,” she said. “We refer you to the Russian government to explain why not.”

The Russian foreign ministry official, who was not identified, said the Americans were to blame for failing to obtain the necessary permits. To accuse Russia of blocking access amounts to a “pre-meditated provocation,” RIA news agency cited the official as saying.

(Reporting by Gennady Novik and Polina Devitt; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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British Gas to raise electricity prices


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PA

British Gas will increase electricity prices by 12.5% from 15 September, its owner Centrica has said, in a move that will affect 3.1 million customers.

However, the company’s gas prices will be held at their current level.

The average annual dual-fuel bill for a typical household on a standard tariff will rise by £76 to £1,120, up by 7.3%.

Centrica said the price increase was its first since November 2013, adding that British Gas was one of the last suppliers to raise prices.

The company added that it would protect its most “vulnerable customers” against the rise and that British Gas would credit more than 200,000 people on the government’s Warm Home Discount with £76.

Cost pressures

Centrica chief executive Iain Conn told the BBC’s Today programme that they were “selling electricity at a loss and that is not sustainable”.

He added: “Our electricity prices have been the same since 2014. Since then we have seen significant pressures on cost in two areas – the transmission and distribution of electricity to the home and secondly government policy costs which are recouped through the bill.”

British Gas had frozen its gas and electricity prices for six months in February, saying at the time it was able to do so by cutting costs to offset higher wholesale prices.

Centrica Consumer chief executive Mark Hodges said: “We held off increasing prices for many months longer than most suppliers in order to protect our customers from rising costs, so it is a difficult decision to have to announce an increase in electricity prices.”



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North Korea Can Hit Most Of United States, US Officials Say


Washington:  North Korea’s latest test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) has shown that Pyongyang now may be able to reach most of the continental United States, two US officials told Reuters on Monday.

The assessment, which the officials discussed on condition of anonymity, underscored the growing threat posed by Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, and could add pressure on President Donald Trump’s administration to respond.

North Korea said on Saturday it had conducted another successful test of an ICBM that proved its ability to strike America’s mainland.

The secretive North’s leader, Kim Jong Un, supervised the midnight launch of the missile on Friday night and called it a “stern warning” to the United States that it would not be safe from destruction if it tried to attack, the official KCNA news agency said.

However, two US intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Monday Kim wants to develop a nuclear-capable ICBM to deter any attack on his country and gain international legitimacy, not to launch an attack on the United States or its allies that he knows would be suicidal.

The Pentagon declined to comment on the US assessment of the missile launch, even as it acknowledged that the latest test represented the longest test flight of any North Korean missile.

“The specifics of our assessment are classified for reasons I hope you understand,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis told a news briefing, acknowledging only that the missile could fly at least 5,500 km (3,420 miles), the minimum range for what the Pentagon classifies as an ICBM.

Two separate US officials who discussed the latest test, which lasted about 45 minutes, said it showed greater range than the July 4 ICBM launch, which North Korea said lasted 39 minutes.

One of the officials said it had greater height, range and power than the previous test because it used force stabilizing engines, which counter the effects of winds and other forces that can knock an ascending rocket off course.

‘Unusual submarine activity’

CNN, citing a US defense official, reported later that North Korea had been showing “highly unusual and unprecedented levels” of submarine activity, in addition to its third “ejection test” this month.

The ejection test was carried out on land at Sinpo Naval Shipyard on Sunday, the US defense official told CNN. It gave no other details about the increased submarine activity.

Ejection tests from submarines usually gauge the ability to “cold launch” missiles, when high pressure steam is used to propel missiles out of launch canisters.

The shipyard is in Sinpo, a port city on the east coast where the North had previously conducted tests of submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

A South Korea defence ministry official told Reuters the military was watching the situation in the North closely but did not provide more information because it was classified.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke with Trump on Monday and agreed on the need for more action on North Korea, hours after the US Ambassador to the United Nations said Washington was “done talking about North Korea”.

The Pentagon acknowledged military-to-military talks with US allies Japan and South Korea after the test.

Davis said that, while the test missile had a lofted trajectory rather than the more direct one required to reach the United States, the military takes the threat seriously.

“You could have the debate back and forth of whether the capability is proven or not, the fact of the matter is we take it seriously and we are prepared to defend against (it),” he said.

The Hwasong-14, named after the Korean word for Mars, reached an altitude of 3,724.9 km (2,314.6 miles) and flew 998 km (620 miles) before landing in the waters off the Korean peninsula’s east coast, according to KCNA.

The flight demonstrated successful stage separation, and reliability of the vehicle’s control and guidance to allow the warhead to make an atmospheric re-entry under conditions harsher than under a normal long-range trajectory, KCNA said.

Independent weapons experts also said they believed the launch demonstrated many parts of the United States were within range if the missile had been launched at a flattened trajectory.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart and Christine Kim in Seoul; Editing by James Dalgleish and Paul Tait)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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Harvard Law Alumni Directory Lists Anthony Scaramucci As Dead


Anthony Scaramucci graduated from Harvard in 1989

Washington:  Anthony Scaramucci is having a bad week. He was, after only 10 days of his appointment, fired as US President Donald Trump’s communications director – and then, listed as dead in Harvard Law School’s alumni directory.

The directory mailed to alumni this week had an asterisk next to Scaramucci’s name, indicating he had died, the Washington Post and CBS News reported on Monday. The 53-year-old New York financier is a 1989 graduate of the Ivy League law school.

News of the mistake came out on same day that Trump fired Scaramucci as White House communications director over an obscenity-laced interview with The New Yorker magazine, sources familiar with the decision said. Scaramucci had been in the job just over a week.

Harvard Law School acknowledged the directory error in a statement and apologized to Scaramucci.

“The error will be corrected in subsequent editions,” the school said. It gave no explanation of how the mistake occurred.

The directory is published every five years and is available only to alumni, CBS said.

Scaramucci did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)



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Donald Trump Has 'All Options On The Table' For North Korea: White House


US B-1 Bombers joined South Korean F-15s in a joint military excercise over the Korean peninsula (AFP)

Washington:  US President Donald Trump has kept all ‘options on the table’ for North Korea, which is flaunting international norms by provocative intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests and its nuclear weaponization program, the White House has said.

It, however, said that the president will not make his options public.

“The President is not going to broadcast any decision, but all options are on the table,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters yesterday at her daily news conference.

North Korea carried out an intercontinental ballistic missile test on Friday which the weapons experts said could even bring New York into range, posing a major challenge to US’ security.

The US strategic bombers retaliated on Saturday by flying over the Korean peninsula, and on Sunday American forces successfully tested a missile interception system that the US hopes will be installed in the Korean peninsula.

Over the weekend Trump had expressed his frustration over Chinese inability to do anything against North Korea.

Earlier in the day, President Trump exuded confidence that he would be able to handle the North Korean situation well, which he did not elaborate upon.

According to the Pentagon, the Department of Defence is well prepared to protect the US and its allies from any provocative behaviour from North Korea.

Within hours of the North Korean ICBM launch, American and South Korean army personnel conducted a combined live fire exercise, the Pentagon said.

“This exercise utilised the Army tactical missile system, also called ATACMS, and the [South Korean] Hyunmoo Missile-2, which fired two missiles each into territorial waters of South Korea along the east coast,” the Pentagon Director of Press Operations, Navy Captain Jeff Davis told reporters during an off-camera news conference.

Also, US Air Force B-1 bombers along with South Korean and Japanese air forces took flight over the Korean Peninsula.

“The B-1s then flew over the Korean Peninsula where they were joined by four [South Korean] Air Force F-15 [Eagle] fighter jets. The B-1s then performed a low pass over Osan Air Base, South Korea, before leaving South Korean airspace and returning to Guam,” Jeff Davis said.

The entire operation lasted for about 10 hours.

“The US maintains flexible bomber and fighter capabilities in the Asia-Pacific theatre, retaining the ability to quickly respond to any regional threat in order to defend the US homeland and in support of our allies,” he said in response to a question.

“North Korea remains the most urgent threat to regional stability,” said Air Force General Terrence O’Shaughnessy, the Pacific Air Forces commander.

“Diplomacy remains the lead; however, we have a responsibility to our allies and our nation to showcase our unwavering commitment while planning for the worst-case scenario. If called upon, we are ready to respond with rapid, lethal, and overwhelming force at a time and place of our choosing,” General O’Shaughnessy said.

All this was in addition to the a successful missile defence test using the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system.

“A medium-range target ballistic missile was air-launched by a US Air Force C-17 [Globemaster III] over the Pacific Ocean. The THAAD weapon system located at Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska in Kodiak, Alaska, detected, tracked and intercepted the target,” said the Pentagon press secretary. This was the 15th successful intercept in 15 tests for THAAD.



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World's Longest Suspension Footbridge, Built In Just 10 Weeks


Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge was unveiled on July 29 after a construction period of just 10 weeks.

Geneva:  The longest pedestrian suspension bridge known as Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge has opened in Swiss Alpine resort of Zermatt Matterhorn.

Located in south Switzerland, the steel bridge is 494 metres long and overtakes the “Titan-RT” bridge in Germany as the world’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge, according to a press release from Zermatt Matterhorn.

It was unveiled on July 29 after a construction period of just 10 weeks, Xinhua news agency reported.

Hikers, thrilled at being suspended 85 metres above the ground, can fulfil their dream by crossing the suspended stretch of the famed Europaweg hiking trail, between Grachen and Zermatt.

The trail is considered by many one of the most beautiful two-day hikes in the Alps. And at a narrow 65 centimetres wide, the bridge stretches like a thin wire across the steep valley floor.



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US 'Reviewing Options' After Vladimir Putin Orders Embassy Cuts


Responding to US sanctions, Russia asked US to cut it’s embassy staff in Russia to 455

Washington:  Washington is reviewing its options after the Kremlin ordered it to shrink its diplomatic mission in Russia, and President Donald Trump still intends to sign new sanctions into law.

Questioned by reporters Monday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders had only a low-key response to President Vladimir Putin’s extraordinary demand that the embassy cut its local and American staff by 755.

A State Department official has anonymously called the weekend’s development “regrettable,” but Trump has not launched any of his trademark tweets to protest the Russian action, a response to the sanctions bill.

“Right now, we’re reviewing our options and when we have something to say on it, we’ll let you know,” Sanders said, repeating that Trump would sign the the bill but refusing to say when.

On Thursday, the US Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill to toughen sanctions on Russia for allegedly meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and its intervention in Ukraine. Iran and North Korea are also targeted in the sanctions bill.

The White House said Trump intends to sign off on the legislation, despite complaining earlier it would cut off the president’s leeway to seek a broader diplomatic rapprochement.

Russia’s foreign ministry on Friday struck preemptively by ordering Washington to reduce its diplomatic presence to 455 before September 1 — bringing it in line with the size of Russia’s mission in the US.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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Trump Fires Communications Director Scaramucci, 10 Days After Hiring Him


WASHINGTON:  President Donald Trump fired communications director Anthony Scaramucci on Monday at the urging of new White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, a clear sign that the retired Marine general is being empowered to manage what has been an unwieldy West Wing operation.

Kelly demanded Scaramucci’s departure after he attacked former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus in a profanity-laced interview last week that quickly became a public symbol of the vicious infighting that has helped define the first months of the administration.

Trump’s willingness to dismiss Scaramucci – whom he hired just 10 days ago – was viewed by many in the West Wing as an indication that he is eager to impose order and is giving Kelly the tools to do so.

“General Kelly has the full authority to operate within the White House, and all staff will report to him,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Left unclear is whether Kelly will be able to curb the president’s inclination to subvert pecking orders, his tendency to encourage rivalries among his staff and his insistence on managing his own message through social media in ways that have often undermined his aides’ strategic planning.

“This is a president that loves feedback and information, and he doesn’t like getting it through a chain of command,” said Trump friend Christopher Ruddy, the chief executive of Newsmax Media. “I don’t think that’s going to change.”

But Kelly’s arrival signals that Trump is putting his confidence in someone he perceives to have the stature and experience to be a forceful leader in a White House characterized by competing power centers.

After swearing in Kelly to his role during an Oval Office ceremony, Trump treated him to the formalities typically reserved for visiting heads of state. As the two sat shoulder to shoulder in armchairs for the benefit of cameras, Trump leaned in and effusively praised Kelly, who previously served as Trump’s homeland security secretary. He later lavished more praise on him during a Cabinet meeting.

“I predict that General Kelly will go down, in terms of the position of chief of staff, one of the greatest ever,” the president said. “We all know him, we respect him, admire what he’s done.”

Priebus was viewed inside the White House as being ineffective and having little control over other top aides, and the president had mused for months about replacing him. In one of the strongest indications that Kelly will have greater authority than his predecessor, Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner – both of whom advocated for Kelly to be hired – have expressed their willingness to support any structural changes Kelly might make, according to a White House official. Sanders confirmed that they, too, will report to Kelly, as will all other officials.

A Kelly-led senior staff meeting Monday morning was well received, said people close to the White House who described aides as feeling optimistic that he might create stability in the West Wing.

“He’s an adult and a disciplinarian,” said Barry Bennett, who was a Trump campaign adviser. “He walks in with respect. I don’t think people will go to war with him.”

But Kelly is planning to bring at least one senior adviser from the Department of Homeland Security with him to the White House. There are signs that these new hires may be met with a chilly reception, two people familiar with the matter said, raising questions about who will hold influence in a White House overloaded with aides competing for influence.

The White House has for months been dominated by warring factions, including a New York-based wing led by Ivanka Trump and Kushner, establishment Republicans, and Trump-allied conservatives inside and outside the administration, among them chief strategist Stephen Bannon.

Ivanka Trump and Kushner were instrumental in bringing Scaramucci into the White House in large part to oust Priebus, who led the establishment wing. After Scaramucci’s explosive interview with the New Yorker, in which he angrily accused Priebus in vulgar terms of leaking to the media, they soured on him and were supportive of Kelly’s efforts to oust him.

Over the weekend, Kelly told associates that he was dismayed by Scaramucci’s interview and found it abhorrent and embarrassing for the president. Removing him from the communications post is part of an effort to change the culture of the White House and to signal to staff members that their comments reflect on the president.

“This was the president showing General Kelly that he’s in charge and he has the ball and this has fingerprints of a clear sign that people need to fall in line,” said Blain Rethmeier, who helped Kelly with his confirmation process earlier this year after he was nominated to lead the Homeland Security Department. “One thing you’ll see is a new level of discipline and respect restored.”

The move comes as the White House is trying to jump-start the president’s stagnant agenda and focus lawmakers and supporters on passing tax cuts. Earlier Monday, three top administration officials, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and legislative director Marc Short, each said they planned to press aggressively for the tax plan, which Trump considers a centerpiece of his domestic agenda.

Shortly after Kelly was sworn in, Trump presided over a Cabinet meeting in which Cohn said the White House is focused primarily on how to push the tax overhaul through Congress. Meanwhile, Short called on conservatives to pressure Senate Democrats in competitive states such as Indiana and North Dakota to support their plan. Mnuchin said the White House would be willing to jettison numerous unspecified tax breaks to make up for some of the revenue the government would lose by lowering tax rates.

While the administration has not been able to move forward on priorities such as tax reform, overhauling the health-care system and spending on infrastructure projects, Trump’s tenure has been dominated by investigations of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether any members of his campaign colluded with Moscow.

The president and top aides have blamed the White House communications operation for not doing a better job of pushing back against the Russia story and promoting his agenda – a situation Trump has often made more difficult with his statements on Twitter.

No other post in the White House has experienced as much upheaval as the communications director job. It was first given to Jason Miller, a Trump campaign aide who stepped down during the transition. It was then given to Republican operative Michael Dubke, who resigned in May. In the intervening weeks, Sean Spicer had taken on those responsibilities in addition to his role as press secretary until Scaramucci was named to the position.

Scaramucci’s tenure led to upheaval in the West Wing from the start, with Spicer resigning rather than working with the New York financier. Within days of entering the White House, Scaramucci threatened to stop White House leaks by firing “everyone” in the press office until the unauthorized disclosures ended.

Quickly, however, his feud with Priebus became his main focus. Scaramucci had at one point described their relationship as being like “brothers.” Later, he clarified that they were like Cain and Abel, two biblical brothers whose tumultuous relationship ended in tragedy. Cain murdered Abel, and was punished by God and condemned to a life of wandering.

When the New Yorker published Scaramucci’s profane tirade against Priebus and vulgar criticism of Bannon, he found himself on the defensive.

But it was Priebus who was let go Friday, making it look as though Scaramucci had won their power struggle. It was a short-lived victory.

On Monday, Sanders said Trump thinks Scaramucci’s comments last week went too far.

“The president certainly felt that Anthony’s comments were inappropriate for a person in that position,” she said.

Trump was eager on Monday to move beyond the criticism that his six months in office have been marked by tumult and dysfunction.

Early in the day, he tweeted that there is no “chaos” in his White House.

Late in the evening as the dust settled on the latest staff turnover, he tweeted: “A great day at the White House!”

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)



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Peanut Butter Jail Break: US Police Hunt For Inmate Who Fooled Guards


24-year-old Brady Kilpatrick remained a fugitive in peanut butter jailbreak incident. (Reuters)

One of 12 inmates who broke out of a county jail in Alabama over the weekend remained at large on Monday, as the local sheriff said the escapees used peanut butter to disguise the numbers on a cell door and fool guards.

Walker County Sheriff James Underwood said in a phone call that 11 of the 12 missing prisoners had been recaptured, some at a highway truck stop, but 24-year-old Brady Kilpatrick remained a fugitive.

Kilpatrick had been in jail facing charges of marijuana possession.

Underwood said the men had managed the escape by using peanut butter to switch lettering on cell and outside doors, then told a guard in a control booth, a new employee with only a week on the job, to open the door leading to their freedom.

“They’re very creative and you just have to stay on your toes all the time,” Underwood said. “They selected someone who hadn’t been here very long and they pulled this operation off.”

Underwood said his deputies were “working on some leads” to recapture Kilpatrick, but declined to elaborate so as not to jeopardize the investigation.

The Walker County Sheriff’s Office has offered a $500 reward for information leading to an arrest.

Police in the small city of Jasper, where the jail is located, urged downtown residents to stay inside and turn on their outdoor lights. Police from nearby Parrish, Alabama, were also involved in the search.

The dozen escapees, all men aged 18 to 30, were imprisoned on charges including robbery, attempted murder, domestic violence and drug possession.

The jail from which the men escaped opened in 1998 and holds 250 inmates, according to the county sheriff’s website.

(Reporting by Chris Michaud, Jonathan Allen and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Scott Malone, Frances Kerry, W Simon and Richard Chang)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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Donald Trump Dictated Son's Statement On Russia Talks: Report


Donald Trump has rushed to his son’s defense, and lambasted what he calls a political “witch hunt.”

Washington, United States:  President Donald Trump personally dictated a misleading statement in which his son Donald Trump Jr said a meeting with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 election was focused on adoptions, The Washington Post reported Monday.

It later emerged that during that fateful June 2016 meeting, Trump’s eldest son, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and then campaign manager Paul Manafort met with a Russian government attorney who an intermediary claimed had incriminating information about Trump’s rival Hillary Clinton.

The subject line of the email from Trump Jr inviting Kushner and Manafort to the meeting read “Russia – Clinton – private and confidential.”

In his initial statement on the meeting, Trump Jr said the group “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children,” and insisted that “it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no followup.”

The Post said the president dictated the statement to his son while on a flight home from the G20 summit in Germany.

Trump Jr later sent shockwaves through Washington by releasing a series of emails that detailed how he had attended the meeting after being promised “very high level and sensitive information” that was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump.”

Trump has rushed to his son’s defense, and lambasted what he calls a political “witch hunt.”

Citing people familiar with the discussions, the Post said the president’s legal team planned to present the meeting as a potential setup by Democrats seeking to entrap Trump Jr and thus Trump himself, who at the time was the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

The meeting with lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya has thrust Trump Jr into the center of a growing scandal over whether Trump’s associates colluded with Moscow to tilt the 2016 election in the Republican’s favor.

Former FBI director Robert Mueller is probing, in his capacity as special counsel, the Russia connection independently of the Senate panels.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)



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easyJet Passenger Punched By Airport Worker While Holding A Baby


It had all the makings of a modern-day airport nightmare: a 13-hour delay, more than 100 cranky and exhausted passengers, and babies running out of formula and diapers.

And that was before an airport employee punched an infant-carrying customer in the face.

A photo of the latest case of air-travel misery shows the exact moment the frustrations of easyJet Flight 2122 boiled over: the outstretched arm of a uniformed airport worker connecting with a man’s cheek, inches away from a baby.

The man who was struck was one of the passengers scheduled to depart from Nice, France, late Sunday morning. The plane was to land at Luton Airport, just outside of London, two hours later. Instead, a mechanical problem with the plane caused a half-day delay.

Worse, said another passenger, Arabella Arkwright, easyJet personnel either didn’t have answers or didn’t communicate them to the passengers languishing in the waiting area. Employees distributed food vouchers, but they barely covered the cost of a muffin at a nearby Starbucks, Arkwright told The Washington Post.

As the hours ticked by, the stranded passengers could hear calls for other easyJet flights that were going to Luton Airport.

It reached a boiling point at the 13-hour mark, sometime before midnight. Passengers were finally told that they could board, then there was a delay at the aircraft’s door, Arkwright said. They were stuck on a Skybridge for a half-hour before trudging back into the airport.

A man holding a baby and a cellphone approached an employee for Samsic, a contractor that assists customers at the airport, for more information.

Voices were raised.

Passengers stared.

“It was just the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Arkwright told The Post on Monday. “The easyJet employee lifted his hand first and pushed the mobile phone out of the man’s hand. You could see it go flying. The man pushed him back, like he was protecting the baby.”

“And then the (worker) just whacked him,” said Arkwright, who captured the punch on her smartphone camera, then tweeted the photo at British media outlets and the budget airline.

Arkwright said she and other passengers were outraged, but not entirely surprised that the situation had devolved to violence.

Afterward, the airline went into damage-control mode. The puncher, easyJet said in a statement, was not one of their employees. He worked for “special assistance provider” Samsic. The airline said it was trying to get to the bottom of the situation.

Samsic did not return a message seeking comment.

It’s unclear what happened to the worker. Both he and the man he’d punched were escorted away by airport security guards.

The man with the baby returned to the airport with a fresh welt on his face and received applause from the other passengers, who were now seated and ready to take off, according to Arkwright.

But Arkwright said she was still incensed at easyJet. Even though the employee wasn’t on the airline’s payroll, he was still interacting with easyJet’s customers. And, she said, company managers were nowhere to be seen as the customer service problems mounted all day.

“We’d been trying to get information out of them all day long,” she said. “I’ve seen their statements. They said they kept people informed. We had to keep going up with questions. On their app they had one thing. On the board they had another thing. On the website they had another.”

Two weeks ago, an unaccompanied minor was booted from an overbooked easyJet flight on his way to visit relatives in Toulouse, France, The Post’s Lindsey Bever reported. Airline officials left the 15-year-old alone at the departure gate as the plane took off; easyJet officials apologized and pledged to investigate.

Elsewhere, during this never-ending season of misery for air travelers and airlines, families have been booted from flights over a birthday cake and a toddler kicking a passenger’s seat. Other airline incidents have included biting, racist and politically charged rants and smashed wine bottles.

Earlier this year, David Dao’s removal from a United Airlines plane sparked a public-relations nightmare for the company. In that incident, a United official told passengers that they needed four people to give up their seats to accommodate off-duty crew members. When no one volunteered, the airline randomly selected four people. Three left without incident. Dao wouldn’t budge.

In the ensuing struggle with officers, Dao fell and hit his mouth on a seat’s armrest. His lawyer said he broke his nose and lost two teeth. He went limp and the video captured him bleeding from the mouth as officers dragged him off the plane.

On April 21, an American Airlines employee was accused of upsetting a woman carrying a baby to the point of tears, then getting involved in a heated exchange with a man who came to her defense, according to The Post’s Amy B Wang.

Arkwright, at home a day after her ordeal in Nice, said she was thinking about the recent spate of airline mishaps when she penned a letter to easyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall.

Arkwright said her biggest gripe wasn’t with the airline’s front-line employees, but with managers who’d allowed the situation to devolve by not communicating.

“In short, the whole saga was a disgrace; the problem is a management one and, yes, that is YOUR responsibility,” she wrote. “How much more inept can you be before your shareholders as well as your customers get seriously angry?

“Information was contradictory all day as the departure time got put back and back – so as not to get people angry at the outset and/ or because there was no f***ing Plan B.”

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)



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Xi Jinping Calls For Strong Army, Tells Chinese Troops World Isn't Safe'


Xi Jinping has overseen the most sweeping changes to China’s military since the 1950s

President Xi Jinping said China needs to speed up the modernization of its military to fend off threats in increasingly dangerous times.

“The world isn’t safe at this moment” Xi, wearing a camouflauge military uniform, said on Sunday after riding in an open jeep at an army parade in Inner Mongolia. “A strong army is needed now more than ever.”

The speech came just hours after U.S. President Donald Trump lambasted China for failing to do more to stop North Korea’s nuclear program, saying “we will no longer allow this to continue.” North Korea, which relies on ally China for food and fuel, test-fired a second intercontinental ballistic missile late on Friday night.

Over the past two years, Xi has overseen the most sweeping changes to China’s military since the 1950s in an effort to create a fighting force that can win modern wars. The modernization drive, which has focused on expanding China’s air and naval reach, is challenging more than 70 years of U.S. military dominance in the Western Pacific.

The parade at Zhurihe Training Base on Sunday marked the 90th anniversary of the creation of the People’s Liberation Army. It featured the Chengdu J-20, China’s stealth jet fighter that some have compared to the F-22 Raptor. About 40 percent of the military equipment in the parade was publicly displayed for the first time, according to Phoenix TV, a pro-Beijing media outlet.

Two decades of budget increases on the back of surging economic growth have turned China into the world’s second-largest military spender. China’s neighbors have grown increasingly worried about its increased assertiveness over disputed territory in recent years.

Xi is reducing the 2.3-million strong force by 300,000 troops, mostly from the army, while expanding the navy and adding new rocket, cyber and outer-space capabilities. He’s cut the number of military regions to five from seven “joint theater commands,” and strengthened China’s Central Military Commission, the Communist Party body that runs the military.

China’s military will remain by far the world’s largest, with more than 600,000 more active service members than the U.S., according to estimates by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The primary goal of the PLA is to ensure the Communist Party stays in power — a mission Xi reminded troops of on Sunday.

“Heed the party’s order forever, follow the party’s step forever, and always fight toward the direction where the party points,” Xi said.

–With assistance from Yinan Zhao

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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North Korea Missile Still Facing Technical Hurdles: US Expert


This month North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un conducted two tests of an ballistic missile. (AFP File)

Washington:  North Korea could field a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile able to strike America by next year, but Pyongyang must first overcome important technological hurdles, a US expert warned Monday.

North Korea has alarmed the international community by the pace and progress of its missile development program, and this month leader Kim Jong-Un conducted two tests of an ICBM.

The first of these trials, which Kim described as a gift to “American b******s,” showed the rocket had the potential range to hit Alaska.

But a second rocket test last week flew even longer and could have reached as far as America’s West Coast, experts say.

Michael Elleman, of the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the 38 North Analyst think tank, said it appears that the “re-entry vehicle” that would carry a warhead back into Earth’s atmosphere from space had failed during the second test.

“Most likely it broke up into pieces,” he said.

“Prior to completely breaking up, it appears to have been shedding some of the outer layers, and then it must have finally disintegrated.”

Elleman’s assessment was based on video shot in Japan’s Hokkaido that shows an object in the night sky breaking up at an altitude of about six to 2.5 miles (four to 10 kilometres).

Without a proper protection during a re-entry stage, a missile’s warhead could burn up.

Still, Elleman said Pyongyang is learning fast and that depending on North Korea’s testing schedule, a deployment next year is possible.

Citing US officials, The Washington Post last week said the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) now believes North Korea will be able to deploy an ICBM capable of carrying a nuclear weapon as soon as next year — two years earlier than the agency’s previous estimate.

“I tend to believe the recent (DIA) assessment that, by late this year or sometime next year, they should have a system that’s what I call ‘reliable enough,'” Elleman said in a conference call with reporters.



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Qatar Launches Wide-Ranging WTO Complaint Against Trade Boycott


Geneva:  Qatar filed a wide-ranging legal complaint at the World Trade Organisation on Monday to challenge a trade boycott by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates, the director of Qatar’s WTO office Ali Alwaleed al-Thani told Reuters.

By formally “requesting consultations” with the three countries, the first step in a trade dispute, Qatar triggered a 60 day deadline for them to settle the complaint or face litigation at the WTO and potential retaliatory trade sanctions.

“We’ve given sufficient time to hear the legal explanations on how these measures are in compliance with their commitments, to no satisfactory result,” al-Thani said.

“We have always called for dialogue, for negotiations, and this is part of our strategy to talk to the members concerned and to gain more information on these measures, the legality of these measures, and to find a solution to resolve the dispute.”

The boycotting states cut ties with Qatar – a major global gas supplier and host to the biggest U.S. military base in the Middle East – on June 5, accusing it of financing militant groups in Syria, and allying with Iran, their regional foe, allegations Doha denies.

The boycotting countries have previously told the WTO that they would cite national security to justify their actions against Qatar, using a controversial and almost unprecedented exemption allowed under the WTO rules.

They said on Sunday they were ready for talks to tackle the dispute, the worst rift between Gulf Arab states in years, if Doha showed willingness to deal with their demands.

The text of Qatar’s WTO complaint cites “coercive attempts at economic isolation” and spells out how they are impeding Qatar’s rights in the trade in goods, trade in services and intellectual property.

The complaints against Saudi Arabia and the UAE run to eight pages each, while the document on Bahrain is six pages.

There was no immediate reaction from the three to Qatar’s complaint, which is likely to be circulated at the WTO later this week.

“Remain Hopeful”

The disputed trade restrictions include bans on trade through Qatar’s ports and travel by Qatari citizens, blockages of Qatari digital services and websites, closure of maritime borders and prohibition of flights operated by Qatari aircraft.

The complaint does not put a value on the trade boycott, and al-Thani declined to estimate how much Qatar could seek in sanctions if the litigation ever reached that stage, which can take 2-5 years or longer in the WTO system.

“We remain hopeful that the consultations could bear fruit in resolving this,” he said.

The WTO suit does not include Egypt, the fourth country involved in the boycott. Although it has also cut travel and diplomatic ties with Qatar, Egypt did not expel Qatari citizens or ask Egyptians to leave Qatar.

Al-Thani declined to explain why Egypt was not included.

“Obviously all options are available. But we have not raised a consultation request with Egypt yet,” he said.

In its WTO case, Qatar would also draw attention to the impact the boycott was having on other WTO members, he added.

Many trade diplomats say that using national security as a defence risks weakening the WTO by removing a taboo that could enable countries to escape international trade obligations.

Al-Thani said governments had wide discretion to invoke the national security defence but it had to be subject to oversight.

“If it is self-regulating, that is a danger to the entire multilateral trading system itself. And we believe the WTO will take that into consideration.”

Qatar also raised the boycott at a meeting of the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) on Monday, al-Thani said.

In comments to Qatar-based Al Jazeera television later on Monday, Qatar’s transport and information minister said the boycotting countries had discriminated against Doha in violation of an international agreement guaranteeing overflights.

“These countries have used this right arbitrarily and imposed it on aircraft registered only in the State of Qatar,” Jassim bin Saif al-Sulaiti said.

Qatar in June asked Montreal-based ICAO to resolve the conflict, using a dispute resolution mechanism in the Chicago Convention, a 1944 treaty that created the agency and set basic rules for international aviation.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain said on Sunday they would allow Qatari planes to use air corridors in emergencies.

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Additional reporting by Sylvia Westall in Dubai and Ali Abdelaty in Cairo,; Editing by Alison Williams and Alister Doyle)

© Thomson Reuters 2017

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)



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Drones use wi-fi for 3D mapping to 'see' through walls


The University of California is using wi-fi enabled drones to create a system of 3D imaging which could potentially allow them to “see” through walls.

The technique, which involves two drones working in tandem, could have a variety of applications, such as emergency search-and-rescue, archaeological discovery and structural monitoring.

BBC Click spoke to Professor Yasamin Mostofi to find out more about the project.

See more at Click’s website and @BBCClick.



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Bank of England urged to share Brexit plan details


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Nicky Morgan was appointed Treasury select committee chairwoman earlier this month

The Bank of England has been urged to share details of how prepared banks and insurance firms are for Brexit.

Newly-appointed Treasury select committee chairwoman Nicky Morgan demanded the information, in one of her first moves since taking on the role.

In a letter to the bank’s Prudential Regulatory Authority, she asked for the key risks of a “no deal” scenario.

Sam Woods, the head of the body, which regulates banks and insurers, has been asked to reply by 2 August.

“The cliff edge facing businesses in April 2019 is a cause for concern, particularly in the financial services sector,” Ms Morgan said, commenting on the letter.

In April, the PRA asked all the firms it regulated for a summary of their contingency plans for the UK’s exit from the EU.

The firms had until 14 July to respond.

‘Grateful for details’

Ms Morgan wrote in the letter that she “would be grateful for some details on the outcome of this exercise”.

She said there was no need to disclose “any firm-specific information”, but asked whether all firms had responded to the request.

Ms Morgan also asked for the PRA’s assessment of how prepared the firms it regulated were for a no deal scenario.

Commenting on her letter, Ms Morgan added: “I have also asked Mr Woods for his views on the desirability and design of a transitional arrangement with the EU, to provide more time to negotiate and prepare for a new UK-EU economic relationship.

“Getting these arrangements right will be crucial for ensuring that the City retains its pre-eminence as a global financial centre, and to protect the economy and jobs as the UK leaves the EU.”

Many businesses have expressed fears over a sudden change in rules once the UK leaves the EU.

Business lobby groups, including the CBI and the British Chambers of Commerce, have pushed for an interim deal to let them trade in the same way post-Brexit.

Former education secretary Ms Morgan replaced long-running Treasury select committee chairman Andrew Tyrie earlier this month.



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AI v cancer


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Prof Hopkins likens scientists working with artificial intelligence as “centaur teams”

Scientists working in tandem with artificial intelligence (AI) could slash the time it takes to develop new drugs – and, crucially, the cost – say tech companies.

Developing pharmaceutical drugs is a very expensive and time-consuming business. And as AstraZeneca found out last week, disappointing drug trials can knock millions off your stock market value in a flash.

So the faster we can identify promising molecules that could be turned into viable drugs, the better.

This is why pharmaceutical companies, such as GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Merck, Sanofi and Johnson & Johnson, are now turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to help them.

Prof Andrew Hopkins is chief executive of Exscientia, an AI-based drug discovery firm that has recently signed a £33m deal with GSK.

He claims that AI and human beings working together in so-called “centaur teams” can help identify candidate molecules in a quarter of the usual time and at a quarter of the cost.

In Greek mythology, the centaur was half human, half horse – and very powerful and fast as a result. AI is giving scientists such extra powers, Prof Hopkins believes.

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The mythical centaur was fast and powerful – half human, half horse

Successful drug discovery relies on precise understanding of how a disease affects our biological systems, says Pamela Spence, global life sciences industry leader at consultancy firm EY.

“Once that is known, scientists then search for molecules that can selectively interact with this ‘target’ and reverse that disruption or slow its impact – a ‘hit’ molecule,” she explains.

Scientists often talk of a disease as the target and the molecule as a weapon being fired a it.

But this process of drug discovery – traditionally carried out by small teams of scientists painstakingly testing each potential target and hit molecule in the hope of finding a winner – is an enormously time-consuming approach that also has a very high failure rate.

So bringing in AI is like having a research assistant who can solve problems by systematic and relentless search at incredible speeds, she says.


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“What might work – and equally importantly what might not work – can be identified first by the AI supercomputer ‘in silico’,” she says.

This is the medical term for research carried out by computer, as opposed to “in vitro” – think test tubes – and “in vivo” – testing on animals and humans.

As carrying out human clinical trials accounts for the vast bulk of drug discovery cost, the sooner we can identify when something isn’t going to work, the less money will be wasted.

“Then the physical testing can be done on a smaller number of potential new medicines… and a much higher success rate can be achieved,” says Ms Spence.

Exscientia’s AI algorithm crunches masses of data, from the structure of diseases to the efficacy of existing drugs, from peer-reviewed studies to observations of slides under a microscope.

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Prof Andrew Hopkins thinks humans can work more efficiently using artificial intelligence

And all these possibilities are narrowed down in a process Prof Hopkins likens to natural selection.

“We’re not trying to rule out the uncertainty – this is messy, dirty data,” he says. “There are very interesting analogies between how human creativity works and evolution.”

The aim is to come up with small molecules as candidates for up to 10 disease-related targets that can then be put through clinical tests.

“Every pill you make might cost pence to manufacture, but it’s actually a precision-engineered product,” says Prof Hopkins, who is also chair of medicinal informatics at the UK’s Dundee University.

“There’s an almost infinite number of other molecules it could have been. You have to make decisions as to what one might be safe and efficacious,” he says. “Most don’t lead to anything.”

This AI-driven approach also makes it easier to come up with molecules that can have two distinct targets. For example, a cancer drug could also improve the immune system as well as tackle the disease.

GSK is getting behind the idea and has recently set up a discovery performance unit focused on enhancing drug discovery through the use of “in silico” technology – including AI, machine learning and deep learning.

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AI-designed molecules need to be made and tested in the laboratory

The drive is being led by John Baldoni, GSK’s head of R&D.

“We have a number of these deals that we are putting in place; the one with Exscientia is probably the one that’s furthest along, but we have a few others in flow and a few internal projects ourselves,” he says.

“The cost of discovery from target to launch is roughly $1.7bn [£1.3bn]. The cost of what we’re talking about here, from target to clinic, is about 33% of that, and it takes about five-and-a-half years.

“Our goal is to reduce that to one year, and reduce the cost commensurate with that.”

AI is also finding its way into other aspects of the drug discovery process.

Benevolent AI, for example, uses natural language processing to sift through published literature, such as chemical libraries, medical databases and scientific papers, to draw conclusions about possible new drug candidates.

Earlier this year, one of its candidates for a drug to treat motor neurone disease – also known as ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) – was found to prevent the death of motor neurones in cells taken from real patients, and delayed the onset of the disease in animals.

“We are incredibly encouraged by these findings,” says Benevolent AI founder and chairman Ken Mulvaney.

Patients should be encouraged, too. AI-based drug discovery promises to bring more effective, cheaper drugs on to the market much more quickly.

  • Follow Technology of Business editor Matthew Wall on Twitter and Facebook



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Other Planets May Never Be As Hospitable As Earth: Study


Earth was an example of an icy world that thawed just enough, some 600-800 million years ago.

Paris, France:  Scientists dealt a blow Monday to the quest for organisms inhabiting worlds besides Earth, saying our planet was unusual in its ability to host liquid water — the key ingredient for life.

It was thought likely that distant worlds orbiting stars similar to our Sun would go through water-rich phases.

This would happen when the young, dim star of an icy, lifeless planet — such as early Earth — starts warming, becomes Sun-like, and melts the ice on planets orbiting it at just the right distance — the so-called “Goldilocks” zone.

Icy orbs in our own Solar System, including Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s Enceladus, or “exoplanets” in other star systems, may become habitable in this way, the theory goes.

But a team wrote in the journal Nature Geoscience on Monday that this was unlikelier than had been imagined.

Jun Yang, of Peking University in China, and a team used climate models to simulate the evolution of icy planets.

Without atmospheric greenhouse gases — a feature of Earth — the energy required to thaw an icy planet would be so high that it would transit from frozen to inferno without an intermediate, liveable phase, they found.

“We find that the stellar fluxes that are required to overcome a planet’s initial snowball state are so large that they lead to significant water loss and preclude a habitable planet,” the team wrote.

Some icy bodies, they suggested, may therefore never pass through a habitable Earth-like state.

Among these, Europa and Enceladus will likely morph from iceballs into fireballs by the time the Sun reaches it’s super-hot red giant phase heat in billions of years from now, said the team.

Earth was an example of an icy world that thawed just enough, some 600-800 million years ago, thanks to planet-warming atmospheric greenhouse gases emitted by volcanic eruptions during its snowball phase, the team said.

This meant that less solar heat would have been required for the ice to melt, enabling our planet to achieve a temperate middle ground.

Greenhouse gases, which are naturally present in the atmosphere but also released by humans burning coal, oil and gas, are what has kept our planet warm enough for humans, animals and plants to inhabit.

But humankind’s addition of mainly CO2 since the Industrial Revolution has caused the atmosphere to retain ever more solar heat, to a point that scientists say we are harming Earth’s perfectly-balanced climate beyond repair.



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Donald Trump's New Communications Director Out In 10 Days: Report


Washington:  White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci was forced out Monday after barely 10 days in his post, as Donald Trump’s new chief of staff asserted his authority on his first day in office.

John Kelly, who had served as Trump’s secretary of homeland security for six months, has been brought in as chief of staff to bring order and discipline to a White House beset by scandal, infighting, low approval ratings and legislative defeats.

After an Oval Office swearing-in ceremony, Trump confidently predicted the 67-year-old combat veteran — one of a group Trump has dubbed “my generals” — will do a “spectacular job.”

And Kelly got straight to work, as reports emerged that Trump dismissed Scaramucci — the fast-talking New York financier — at Kelly’s request.

“Mr Scaramucci felt it was best to give Chief of Staff John Kelly a clean slate and the ability to build his own team.  We wish him all the best,” the White House said in a terse statement.

Scaramucci had courted controversy with an expletive-laden attack on his colleagues — then chief of staff Reince Priebus, who was forced out last week, and chief White House strategist Steve Bannon.

‘Record-shattering’

Kelly inherits the day-to-day running of a White House staff that — far from marching in lockstep — look like a regiment pinned down by heavy fire, getting conflicting orders from their commander and squabbling over the way forward.

“I predict that General Kelly will go down as, in terms of the position of chief of staff, one of the great(est) ever,” Trump said.

“What he has done in terms of homeland security is record-shattering, if you look at the border, if you look at the tremendous results we’ve had.”

Kelly replaces Priebus, a Republican Party operative who was ousted last week after the spectacular failure of Trump’s bid to repeal Obamacare and as his ugly feud with Scaramucci spilled into the open.

The chief of staff is the highest ranking White House employee — a chief operating officer who organizes staff, manages the president’s schedule and decides who gets access to him and when.

That is no small mission in Trump’s White House, where a rotating cast of family and staff with unclear roles and opaque job titles walk into the Oval Office seemingly at will.

Many question whether anyone can rein in the mercurial, Twitter-happy Trump, who has appeared to encourage the infighting among various factions vying for influence in his administration.

No chaos

Trump — ever determined to project success — insisted Monday that there was no “chaos” at the White House, which was instead running as a finely tuned machine.

“I think we’re doing incredibly well. The economy is doing incredibly well, and many other things. So we’re starting from a really good base,” he told a cabinet meeting.

“We have the highest stock market in history,” Trump said, adding that US economic growth in the last quarter stood at 2.6 percent and was approaching the three percent target he once set.

“Unemployment is the lowest it’s been in 17 years.  Business enthusiasm is about as high as they’ve ever seen it.”

But aside from the economy, there has been little reason for Trump to cheer.

Under pressure from a widening probe into his campaign’s contacts with Russia last year, Trump last week attacked his own attorney general Jeff Sessions for disloyalty, alarming his conservative base, before turning on Priebus.

In another tweet Monday, Trump hinted that Congress’s own health insurance plan should be replaced for its failure to repeal Obamacare, his predecessor’s signature reform of the US health care system.

“If Obamacare is hurting people & it is, why shouldn’t it hurt the insurance companies and why should Congress not be paying what public pays?”

Since taking office six months ago, Trump’s tumultuous administration has seen a succession of negative headlines and brewing scandals.

Fueling the fire, the billionaire Republican has parted with a number of top officials including his national security advisor, deputy national security advisor and FBI director, among others — an unparalleled turnover for such a young presidency.

On the global stage, Trump faces the stark challenge of a North Korea that could be on the verge of marrying nuclear and ballistic missile technology.

“We’ll handle North Korea. We’re going to be able to handle them. It will be handled. We handle everything. Thank you very much,” Trump said.

Kelly’s arrival is likely to signal a renewed focus on border security and immigration.

“As the coils of the Russia investigation grow tighter, as his failures in Congress mount, Trump reaches for what he knows –demagoguery of the rawest sort,” predicted Eliot Cohen, a former State Department official once tipped to join the Trump White House.

“Trump will remain Trump, and the various denizens of the White House are unlikely to treat Kelly with much more deference than they treat one another,” he wrote in the Atlantic magazine.

Fiery White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, appointed just 10 days ago by President Donald Trump, is out of a job, US media reported Monday.

Scaramucci courted controversy with an eye-watering attack on his colleagues — one targeting chief of staff Reince Priebus, who left his job last week, and chief White House strategist Steve Bannon.

The New York Times reported that Scaramucci was dumped on the request of new chief of staff John Kelly, who was sworn in Monday, and tapped by Trump to bring some stability to an at times chaotic White House.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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Game of Thrones script 'stolen in HBO hack'


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An upcoming Game of Thrones script was allegedly stolen

A group of hackers claims to have stolen the script for a forthcoming Game of Thrones episode and other data in a breach at entertainment firm HBO.

The group says it has 1.5 terabytes of the company’s data and has posted episodes of Ballers and Room 104 online.

It added that more material would be released “soon”.

HBO confirmed it had experienced a “cyber incident” in a statement.

In an email published by Entertainment Weekly, the hackers appeared to offer more details in exchange for favourable coverage.

“Hi to all mankind,” they wrote. “The greatest leak of cyber space era is happening.”

They encouraged recipients to download the material and added: “Whoever spreads well, we will have an interview with him.”

Reports have said the allegedly stolen Game of Thrones script appears to be from the fourth episode of season seven, which is currently being broadcast.

The BBC has not been able to independently verify that the hackers possess the material they claim to have stolen.

HBO confirmed that a “cyber incident” had resulted in the compromise of information.

“We immediately began investigating the incident and are working with law enforcement and outside cybersecurity firms,” the firm added.

“Data protection is a top priority at HBO, and we take seriously our responsibility to protect the data we hold.”

The intrusion was “obviously disruptive, unsettling, and disturbing for all of us,” said chairman and chief executive Richard Plepler in an email to HBO employees.



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Hackers Claim They Stole Unaired Game of Thrones Script


Gwendoline Christie poses at a premiere for season 7 of ‘Game of Thrones’ (Reuters)

New York:  U.S. cable channel HBO said on Monday that hackers had stolen upcoming programming, and Entertainment Weekly reported that the theft included a script for an unaired episode of the hit fantasy show “Game of Thrones.”HBO, a unit of Time-Warner Inc, declined to comment on the specific programming stolen in the hack.

“As most of you have probably heard by now, there has been a cyber incident directed at the company which has resulted in some stolen proprietary information, including some of our programming,” HBO Chairman Richard Plepler wrote in a message to employees, which the company shared with reporters.

The company declined to comment on reports that unbroadcast episodes and scripts were among the data hacked, citing an “ongoing investigation” by unspecified law enforcement officials.

Entertainment Weekly reported that hackers stole 1.5 terabytes of data and had already posted online unbroadcast episodes of “Ballers” and “Room 104,” along with “a script or treatment” for next week’s episode of “Game of Thrones.”

Reuters also received an e-mail on Sunday from a person claiming to have stolen HBO data, including “Game of Thrones.”

The show is now in its seventh season and due to wrap up next year.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen and Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
 

© Thomson Reuters 2017

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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Bank of England strike to go ahead


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A three-day strike by Bank of England support staff will go ahead from Tuesday after talks at the conciliation service Acas ended without agreement, the Unite union said.

Employees are unhappy about a below inflation pay rise of 1%.

Protestors are planning to gather outside the Bank of England building wearing masks of Governor Mark Carney.

It will be the first time for over 50 years that staff at the Bank of England have been on strike.

Unite members at the Bank of England working in the maintenance and security departments will be taking part in the strike.

In addition, staff in the Bank of England “parlours” which are meeting rooms on the ground floor of the Bank’s building in Threadneedle Street will walk out. The staff are involved in a variety of work including security and catering as well as conducting visitors around the bank.

A Bank of England spokesperson said the Bank had been told that the industrial action called by Unite would begin at midnight for three days.

“The Union balloted approximately 2% of the workforce,” the statement said.

“The Bank has plans in place so that all essential business will continue to operate as normal during this period. The Bank has been in talks with Unite up to and including today and remains ready to continue those talks at any time.”

The last time Bank of England staff went on strike was in the late 60s and involved print workers in Debden, who were employed by the Bank of England at that time,

Unite said the dispute centred on the “derisory” pay settlement that the bank had imposed on staff without the union’s agreement. It was the second year running that staff had received a below inflation pay offer, it said.

Inflation was 2.6% last month, according to official figures.



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Bitcoin rebels risk 'currency trading chaos'


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Bitcoin Cash’s creators plan to offer the new currency to owners of existing bitcoins

A split in the Bitcoin community is set to create a new incompatible version of the cryptocurrency on Tuesday.

A group of insiders is unhappy with existing plans to speed up transaction times.

They plan to offer existing investors a matching amount of a new virtual asset – called Bitcoin Cash – which could put pressure on the value of original bitcoins.

One expert has warned there could be trading “chaos” over the coming days.

Several popular Bitcoin platforms are refusing to support the new coins.

That means investors who currently rely on some Bitcoin currency exchanges and virtual wallets will be unable to take advantage of the offer unless they switch to alternative providers. And moving from one platform to another carries risks of its own.

“Nobody can be sure how this is going to play out over the short term,” commented Iqbal Gandham, UK managing director of the eToro trading platform.

Compromise plan

The breakaway plan was revealed just over a week ago after it emerged that a compromise scheme to reform Bitcoin appeared to have gathered enough support to be adopted.

The middle-ground solution – known as Segwit2x – is an attempt to address one of Bitcoin’s constraints: at present the ledger of past transactions, known as the blockchain, can have only one megabyte of data added to it every 10 minutes.

The limitation was originally introduce to protect Bitcoin from cyber-attacks, but has meant some users have had to wait days for their transactions to complete at busy times.

Two conflicting solutions were initially proposed:

  • to increase the size of each block of the blockchain to more than one megabyte, which would allow more transactions to be processed in each batch
  • to relocate some of the information from the blockchain to a separate file, which would be transmitted alongside it

Many “miners” – dedicated businesses and others that contribute computer processing power to authorise transactions in return for the chance of being awarded newly minted Bitcoins – favoured the former plan.

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EPA

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Thousands of computers are dedicated to solving complex problems to authorise Bitcoin transactions

But many developers – those working on Bitcoin’s code or that of associated software – preferred the latter.

The Segwit2x initiative solved the impasse by suggesting the data-splitting step should occur in August and then be followed by an increase in the block size to 2MB in November.

Under the terms of a related scheme – referred to as Bitcoin Improvement Proposal 91 (BIP 91) – the first step would only happen if 80% of the mining effort adopted the new blockchain software required and used it consistently between 21 July and 31 July.

New coins for old

After more than 95% of miners signalled their support for the plan it was widely assumed that a Bitcoin “civil war” had been averted.

But then ex-Facebook engineer Amaury Sechet and other Bitcoin insiders revealed plans to launch Bitcoin Cash on 1 August at 12:20 UTC (13:20 BST).

They claimed that the danger with the Segwit2x scheme was that there was no guarantee a doubling of the block size would follow the data-splitting step, as promised.

Instead their new currency would have a block size of 8MB and ditch the data-dividing idea.

To further complicate matters, some Bitcoin exchanges are divided about whether to support the creation of Bitcoin Cash and allow its trade, with several yet to declare their plans.

Furthermore, some exchanges plan to suspend or restrict trade in Bitcoin altogether for several days until they are confident that any disruption has passed.

Potential chaos

The uncertainty surrounding Bitcoin Cash’s chances has led to one futures market in Bitcoin Cash to value one coin as being worth about $267, a fraction of the $2,780 each bitcoin was trading at short time ago.

In theory, if mass adoption were expected, the two currencies should be much closer in price.

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Getty Images

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Some Bitcoin exchanges plan to freeze trade in the virtual currency for two or more days

“There’s massive uncertainty and the quoted futures price should be taken with a grain of salt,” commented Dr Garrick Hileman, research fellow at the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance.

“We won’t know the real Bitcoin Cash price until a number of exchanges across the world start trading it, and it’s still not clear when that will happen.”

And he added that there could be some wild swings in the value of both types of Bitcoin over the coming days.

“My sense is that the split can be managed if exchanges and wallets take the necessary precautions,” he explained.

“But I suspect some will not be well prepared as this happened quickly and a lot of organisations are coming on board at the last minute.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if there is some chaos.”



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British PM's Spokesman Says EU Free Movement To End In 2019


Theresa May has repeatedly said Brexit will take place as scheduled in late March 2019.

London:  The automatic right of European Union citizens to live and work in Britain will end in March 2019 with Brexit, Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman said on Monday, after her ministers publicly differed over the shape of the divorce with the EU.

Since May’s failed gamble on a snap election last month, the future of Brexit has been thrown into question with squabbling between her ministers over the pace, tone and terms of Britain’s departure from the club it joined in 1973.

May, who on Monday interrupted a three-week holiday to attend a World War One commemoration ceremony, has faced public pressure to temper her plans for a clean break from the EU.

The level of discord is such that one opposition politician spoke of “civil war” within the government over Brexit and some of the bloc’s most powerful politicians have even raised the prospect of Britain scrapping Brexit.

May has repeatedly said Brexit will take place as scheduled in late March 2019.

But the Archbishop of Canterbury said the chance of this was “infinitesimally small” because political wrangling will prevent the detailed work that is needed.

Justin Welby, who is the spiritual head of the Anglican communion of millions of Christians globally and sits in the House of Lords, said domestic political wrangling would impede the detailed work that is needed for Brexit.

In response, May’s spokesman said the government remained committed to the exit timetable.

IMMIGRATION IS HOT ISSUE

Immigration from the EU is one of the most contentious issues because the economy relies on imported labour but many British voters are angry over what they consider to be uncontrolled immigration.

“Free movement will end in March 2019,” May’s spokesman told reporters, adding that the government had already set out some details including proposals on EU citizens’ rights after Brexit.

“Other elements of the post-Brexit immigration system will be brought forward in due course. It would be wrong to speculate on what these might look like or to suggest that free movement will continue as it is now.”

The British government has for years failed to meet a pledge to reduce net migration below 100,000 a year. May’s spokesman said it would take time to get the numbers down, but the government was committed to doing so.

Finance minister Philip Hammond said last week that there should be no immediate change to immigration rules when Britain leaves the bloc, and Interior Minister Amber Rudd said there would be no ‘cliff edge’ on leaving the EU.

But Trade Minister Liam Fox said allowing free movement after Brexit would not “keep faith” with the referendum result and that the government had not reached a consensus on keeping open EU immigration for a transitional period.

The length of a potential transition period to allow business to adapt to the potential upheaval caused by Brexit is another contentious issue. There has been no clear guidance from May’s team on how long the transition should be.

BREXIT “CIVIL WAR”

Vince Cable, leader of the pro-EU Liberal Democrats said the “civil war” within May’s cabinet over Brexit was now so serious she should return from her holiday and take charge.

“There are more government positions than there are cabinet ministers. The government is in total disarray. Unless the cabinet can agree a position how can it possibly negotiate Brexit on behalf of Britain with the EU?,” he said.

The EU’s top Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told EU ambassadors last week that negotiations on the future relationship between Britain and the EU are now less likely to start in October due to a lack of progress at the initial stage of talks about the breakup.

Hammond was also reported as saying Britain does not intend to lower taxes far below the European average in order to remain competitive after Brexit, contradicting comments he himself had made earlier in the year.

The pro-Brexit UK Independence Party said remain-supporting ministers were now “actively promoting confusion and uncertainty” in order to undermine Brexit negotiations and seek to reverse the process.

May’s spokesman said there was broad agreement across government and within her team of ministers about the need to make Brexit as smooth as possible. The government position on Brexit remains as set out by May in a January speech, he added.

He cited comments from that speech in which May said that it was “in no-one’s interests for there to be a cliff edge for business” but that this did not mean seeking “some form of unlimited transitional status”.

The details of any implementation period are to be negotiatied but the government is not looking for an “off-the-shelf model”, he said, after a Financial Times report that Hammond hoped for such an option.

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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Qatar Launches Wide-Ranging WTO Complaint Against Trade Boycott: Report


Qatar filed a wide-ranging legal complaint at the World Trade Organization on Monday.

Geneva:  Qatar filed a wide-ranging legal complaint at the World Trade Organization on Monday to challenge a trade boycott by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates, Qatar’s WTO representative Ali Alwaleed al-Thani told Reuters.

By formally “requesting consultations” with the three countries, the first step in a trade dispute, Qatar triggered a 60 day deadline for them to settle the complaint or face litigation at the WTO and potential retaliatory trade sanctions.

Qatar is also raising the boycott at a meeting of the U.N. International Civil Aviation Organization on Monday, al-Thani said.

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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Qatar 'files complaint' with World Trade Organization


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AFP/Getty Images

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Qatar has been accused of supporting terror

Qatar is reported to have filed an official complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO), aimed at challenging an ongoing trade boycott by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates.

The formal step would mark the first step in the WTO’s dispute process.

It means the countries would have to sit down with Qatar to negotiate.

But if a settlement can’t be reached within 60 days, the dispute would go to a WTO-appointed panel.

Reuters news agency first reported that the complaint had been filed.

The WTO told the BBC it had not received any information so could not confirm the report.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) cut ties with their Gulf neighbour on 5 June, saying it supports terrorism. They also gave Qatari citizens 14 days to leave their territory and banned their own citizens from travelling to or residing in Qatar.

Qatar strongly denies the allegation and has rejected a list of conditions for the lifting of sanctions.

Egypt also cut diplomatic ties with Qatar but did not impose restrictions on its 180,000 citizens living there. Yemen, the Maldives and Libya’s eastern-based government later followed suit.

In addition, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt closed their airspace to Qatari aircraft, and said foreign airlines would have to seek permission for flying over Qatar.

The oil-rich state has long practised an ambitious foreign policy with different priorities to its neighbours but there are two key issues which have angered its neighbours in recent years.

One is Qatar’s support for Islamist groups. Qatar acknowledges that it has provided assistance to some, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, but denies aiding militant groups linked to al-Qaeda or so-called Islamic State (IS).

The other key issue is Qatar’s relations with Iran, with which it shares the world’s largest gas field. The Shia Muslim power is Sunni Muslim-ruled Saudi Arabia’s main regional rival.



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WikiLeaks Posts Over 21,000 Emails Linked To Emmanuel Macron's Campaign


Emmanuel Macron had never held elected office before winning the presidency.

Paris:  WikiLeaks said on Monday it had published a searchable archive of more than 21,000 verified emails associated with key figures in the election campaign of President Emmanuel Macron.

The stolen data was originally dumped on the internet in May, on the eve of the French presidential run-off between Macron and far-right opponent Marine Le Pen, in an apparent attempt to undermine voters’ confidence.

Within hours of the leak, Macron’s staff alleged it had been targeted by a “massive and coordinated” hacking operation.

The document dump came too late in the campaign to have any direct influence on the election, in part because the country’s electoral commission warned it was a crime to republish any details from the emails before the balloting.

French newspapers who have poured over the documents since then said they had found nothing scandalous to report. By turning the dump into a database, WikiLeaks has made the documents easily searchable for anyone with a web browser.

The cyber attack drew comparisons with the 2016 U.S. election campaign, during which U.S. intelligence agencies alleged Russia had interfered to benefit President Donald Trump. Russia denies meddling in the U.S. election.

Macron’s team also blamed Russian interests in part for earlier attempts to interfere with their campaign. The Kremlin has denied it was behind any such attacks.

At the time, WikiLeaks did not publish the Macron documents themselves, but said they were doing so now after attempting to verify the authenticity of the email addresses.

WikiLeaks did not say how the emails were obtained. In its statement, it sought to cast doubt on the theory that Russia was behind the attack, citing a comment by a French government cyber security official that the document dump appeared to be the work of an “isolated individual”.

WikiLeaks said it found 21,075 verified emails in an archive of 71,848 emails, along with 26,506 attached documents, which it also published. They spanned the eight years between March 2009 and April 2017, the month of the first round of the French election.

Macron was an investment banker in 2009. He had never held elected office before winning the presidency. He announced his bid to become president in November 2016.

Macron’s office declined to comment.

French law enforcement and intelligence officials have not publicly accused anyone of the campaign attacks.

© Thomson Reuters 2017



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Discovery to buy Scripps in $14.6bn deal


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Discovery channels include Animal Planet and Eurosport

Discovery Communications, owner of the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, is buying Scripps Networks for $14.6bn (£11.1bn) in a deal that combines two major US television companies.

Scripps’ channels include the Food Network and Travel Channel. The two companies are estimated to have 20% of ad-supported TV viewership in the US

The two said the deal would enable them to compete better with online options.

Firms such as Amazon and Netflix are increasing competition in the sector.

Discovery and Scripps are also grappling with changing models of distribution, as cable companies respond to falling subscriber numbers with their own online platforms and less expensive packages with fewer channels.

“We believe that by coming together with Scripps, we will create a stronger, more flexible and more dynamic media company with a global content engine that can be fully optimised and monetised across our combined networks, products and services in every country around the world,” said Discovery chief executive David Zaslav.

The offer values Scripps stock at $90 per share, 34% higher than the price when reports of the deal first circulated earlier this month. The $14.6bn deal includes Discovery’s assumption of $2.7bn in Scripps debt.

The companies said they expect to make $350m in savings through the combination, which is subject to regulatory review. The deal is expected to be completed by early 2018.

Long-term prospects

Discovery’s channels also include Science, Turbo/Velocity and Eurosport. The company, which has its headquarters near Washington, DC, employed about 7,000 people at the end of 2016.

Scripps, based in Tennessee, owns international ventures such as UKTV, a commercial joint venture with BBC Worldwide and TVN, a premiere multi-platform provider of entertainment, lifestyle and news content in Poland.

Reports of a possible merger started circulating earlier this month, pushing up share values of both companies.

Scripps shares held steady after the firms announced the deal on Monday, rising 0.7% in opening trade. Shares of Discovery, which also reported quarterly earnings, fell nearly 7%.

Last week, analysts at research firm Moffett Nathanson said the deal could lead to some benefits, but was unlikely to change the long-term challenges faced by the two firms.

“While there will likely be ample cost synergies, international revenue opportunities and improved relative scale, we don’t think this merger will fundamentally alter the long-term prospects of these companies.”



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iPhone thieves ‘used van to rob moving lorry’


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JACK TAYLOR/AFP/Getty Images

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The thieves used a van to steal boxes of iPhones from a moving truck (file picture)

Five Romanian men have been arrested in the Netherlands on suspicion of stealing iPhones worth 500,000 euros ($590,000; £447,430) from a moving lorry.

They allegedly tailgated the vehicle before one of them climbed onto the bonnet of their van and broke into the lorry in front of them.

Boxes of iPhones were then passed back through the van’s roof.

The theft took place on the night of 24 July, on the A73 highway near Horst.

Dutch news outlet ED said such gangs often modify their vehicles by putting an anti-slip mat on the bonnet.

The risky theft tactic was first seen in Germany in 2008, the outlet said. Belgium has witnessed similar incidents, almost all targeting smartphones. Sometimes, a grinding wheel is used to break into the truck.

Police spokesman Ed Kraszewski said Dutch police had been investigating lorry thefts for some time, but doubted a theft like this could be pulled off.

“The truck was taking its freight from A to B and did not stop. Even so [the phones] were gone,” he said. “So it must have happened that way. And now we finally have the evidence, with the van and the loot.”

The men, aged from 33 to 43, were arrested on Saturday at a holiday park in Otterlo, in the central province of Gelderland.

Police found iPhones at the address, and the van they believe was used in the crime.

The men are set to appear before a judge on Tuesday.



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Virtual reality re-invents games arcades


Virtual reality has been around for a few years but despite investment from a number of companies, the format has so far failed to grab the public’s imagination.

But now, Australian company Zero Latency is looking to take virtual reality to a new level with free-roaming, multi-player games.

A room fitted with 64 cameras tracks the movements of players as they interact with a variety of games.

BBC Click’s Marc Cieslak finds out more.

See more at Click’s website and @BBCClick.



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Will Resign If Money Trail Statement Proven False, Says Imran Khan


Imran Khan promised to implement merit-based employment at all levels in naya Pakistan. (File photo)

Islamabad:  Cricketer-turned-politician and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan has said that he will resign if any statement in his money trail is found to be false.

Observing thanksgiving day to celebrate “Pakistan’s victory against corruption” after the Supreme Court on Friday disqualified Nawaz Sharif as the Prime Minister, Imran Khan on Sunday promised to implement merit-based employment at all levels in “naya Pakistan”.

Discussing the case against him in the court, Imran Khan said: “I will resign from the party if a single sentence of my statement before the judiciary is proven false.”

According to Dawn online, speaking to thousands of supporters gathered at the Parade Ground in Islamabad, the PTI chief thanked his party workers, especially the women.

“I am glad that women are playing an active role in making a new Pakistan,” he said, remembering his late mother and crediting her for teaching him to “stand firm for the truth and justice”.

“We are thankful to the judiciary because with the judgment, they brought us a new hope.”

Asking the crowd to imagine a “naya Pakistan”, Imran Khan promised that under his party’s leadership the National Accountability Bureau would not wait for the government’s orders to take action against criminals. “I will make an autonomous Federal Board of Revenue and empower all institutions.”

Lashing out at Nawaz Sharif for his alleged money laundering, Imran Khan warned Pakistan Peoples Party’s Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Shahbaz Sharif, who is set to be the next Prime Minister, and the disqualified Prime Minister’s ally Maulana Fazlur Rehman that it was their turn next (for accountability).

Criticising nepotism within the PML-N, he alleged that Shahbaz Sharif had been selected to replace Nawaz Sharif because “the party is being run like a kingdom”.



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Game hunting TV app is launched by Arsenal's owner


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MOTV

As two Americans shouldering their guns make their way through the African bush, the emphasis is on relishing the risk and talking up the danger.

“It’s not a game. These are big powerful cats. They wouldn’t think anything of taking out a human.”

This hunt is half for their own benefit, half for the viewers.

UK hunting fans can now follow scenes like these, as well as rather tamer bird-shooting and fishing footage, via a newly-launched app.

US billionaire Stan Kroenke, owner of Arsenal football club, is taking his online hunting channel, MOTV, to an international audience.

The app will soon be marketed in English-speaking countries around the world including Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Finally, after “days and days of boredom”, the Americans do track down and kill one of the “big five”.

“You gotta get over here!” They slap shoulders and congratulate themselves on a “quick, clean, humane” shot.

“We have us an African lion.”

Huntin’, shootin’, fishin’

Big game hunting is a small, though eye-catching proportion of MOTV’s content.

In the US, where the app launched last year, the majority of the films are of white tail hunting and other typical North American quarries.

The aim is to localise content to appeal to national audiences, said Simon Burr, speaking for Outdoor Sportsman Group, the company behind the app.

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MOTV

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Less dramatic content focuses on fishing

“There will be fishing, shooting, hunting that’s relevant to the UK, so deer-stalking in Scotland, for example.

“There’ll be some pheasant-shooting on there. There’ll be salmon fishing, fishing on the coasts.”

The platform also hosts cookery shows to show how to prepare wild game meat, with plans to work with UK-based chefs in the pipeline.

Higher standards

Stan Kroenke, the sports and entertainment billionaire who controls Arsenal Football Club, owns the company behind the new web channel, a small part of his huge Colorado-based sporting empire, Kroenke Sports & Entertainment.

But the channel, which is available as a paid-for subscription, has met with a critical reaction following its UK launch, as animal rights charities oppose what they say is a “cruel” pastime and question whether people will want to watch.

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MOTV

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Most of the films are of North American hunts

Mr Burr said objections were misplaced given that hunting videos were already widely available on the internet already and that MOTV would promote higher standards.

“It’s guaranteed any hunting that’s on there will have be done in an ethical, fair-chase way and it will have been done legally,” he said.

‘Own goal’

But animal rights group the League against Cruel Sports is sceptical.

“We think Mr Kroenke is out of touch with the way most people are thinking,” said Chris Pitt, deputy director of policy campaigns and communications.

“We’re not in the old days when hunters went out to bag an elephant and put its head on the wall.

“So for someone in a position like Mr Kroenke to launch a channel that’s so out of touch with what people want is an own goal to say the least.

“The reality of trophy hunting is that a lot, if not most, of these animals will not be killed cleanly, they will suffer long painful deaths – and so on the welfare argument alone, hunting like this should be banned.”

Conservation funding

Some of the contributors to the channel promote themselves as conservationists, tapping into a highly contentious debate around whether it is ethical and effective to raise money to protect wildlife by charging high fees for trophy hunting.

“Hunting adds very good dollars into conservation and it is an absolute driver for keeping some of these endangered species alive and that’s very, very important,” said Mr Burr.

The wildlife charity WWF said it accepted trophy hunting “in a very limited number of contexts where it is culturally appropriate, legal and effectively regulated. It must also demonstrate clear conservation and community benefits.”

Chris Pitt of the League Against Cruel Sports rejects the argument that it raises significant amounts of money for conservation.

“That’s what they’ve been saying for years, but more and more studies show that’s not actually what’s happening,” he said.



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Rapist Left Dentures Behind At Crime Scene. Name Was Written Inside


Police found an odd piece of evidence the rapist had forgotten: his dentures.

The 2001 attack was vicious. In August, an 31-year-old Memphis woman was walking along Thomas Street, an empty stretch of road drilling through an industrial area north of downtown. A man approached, forced her off the road, and stabbed a metal object up under her chin so hard it stuck to the roof of her mouth. Then according to Memphis’s Fox 40, the unknown assailant forced the unnamed victim to perform oral sex.

When police arrived at the scene, they found an odd piece of evidence the rapist had forgotten: his dentures.

Along with other physical evidence from the assault, the false teeth were reportedly bagged and placed in a Memphis Police Department property room. There, like an estimated hundreds of thousands of rape kits across the country, the material sat untouched for more than a decade.

Until last summer, when Memphis authorities retested the ignored kits. A match was identified. Had anyone examined the dentures 16 years earlier, they would have seen the name of a murderer chiseled into the false teeth, according to the Commercial Appeal. The arrest of the assailant, Thomas Maupin, 67, underscores the depth of the backlog.

Hard statistics on the number of untested rape kits across the United States are largely estimates and guesses. End the Backlog, a nonprofit advocacy group geared toward focusing publicity and resources on solving the issue, defines the problem in two-parts: rape kits that have not been tested; and rape kits that have been submitted for testing but are not analyzed in a “timely manner,” 30 days after receiving the evidence. Funding is key here. The group says it costs $1,000 to $1,500 to test a kit, putting frequent lab work outside the reach of budget-troubled municipalities. Labs are also beset by their own funding problems and out-of-date procedures.

Memphis was a prime example of the rape kit backlog crisis. In 2013, the city announced 12,164 kits were sitting in the city’s possession – untested, according to End the Backlog. An emergency order from the mayor’s office accelerated a project that would cost an eventual $6.5 million. “As of April 2017, 7,984 kits have been analyzed and 3,019 are currently at the laboratory awaiting testing,” according to End the Backlog’s website. “As a result, MPD has opened 2,077 investigations and 228 requests for indictment have been issued.”

Maupin’s arrest for the 2001 attack is among those belated victories. At the time of the crime, the items in the rape kit were not tested because of a backlog in the police department, the Commercial Appeal reported. Then last summer, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation came up with a partial match to Thomas Maupin, the name on the teeth.

Had investigators focused on the item originally, they arguably might have closed the case earlier. That’s because the dentures had an odd origin: the false teeth were made for Maupin when he was serving a prison sentence on the West Coast for killing a 6-year-old girl.

In January 1988, Tricna Dawn Cloy went missing after attending a birthday party with her mother and brother at a neighbor’s house in Spokane, Wash. According to UPI reports, Maupin was an early suspect: He had met the girl and her mother at the party and also walked them home. News accounts described Maupin as a “drifter with an extensive criminal record” including a conviction in “Texas in 1977 for indecency with a child.”

The girl’s body was discovered six months later in a gravel pit. Maupin was charged with felony murder, kidnapping and rape. He was convicted and sentenced to 480 months in prison. An error at the trial, however, reversed the conviction. Maupin was tried and convicted again. And once again, an error at the trial wiped the conviction away on appeal. Rather than face a third trial, Maupin pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, received a 12-year sentence with time served, and was released in 1997, according to the Spokesman-Review.

The dentures were made for Maupin while he was serving his prison sentence in Washington.

Last week, Maupin pleaded guilty in the 2001 Memphis rape. He’ll serve eight years in prison per his agreement with Shelby County prosecutors.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)



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France and Italy in row over shipyard


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Getty Images

The French and Italian governments remain at odds over the ownership of France’s biggest shipyard.

Last week, the French government nationalised the STX France shipyard at Saint-Nazaire on the Atlantic coast to prevent a majority stake being taken by an Italian company.

The French government said it was seeking to defend France’s strategic interests by retaining a 50% stake.

The French finance minister will resume talks on the deal in Rome on Tuesday.

The shipyard is the only one in France big enough to build aircraft carriers, and it also builds other large warships and cruise ships. The world’s biggest cruise ship, Harmony of the Seas, was built there.

It was put up for sale after its biggest shareholder, the South Korean conglomerate STX, collapsed last year. The French government owned the remainder of the shares in the shipyard.

Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri and another Italian investor subsequently reached an agreement to buy a majority stake in the shipyard.

‘Best conditions’

However, last week Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire announced that France had exercised a “pre-emption” right to buy back the stake from the Italians.

He said the reason was to protect France’s strategic interests in matters of naval construction.

France proposed a 50-50 ownership deal with Italian state-owned Fincantieri, but the company rejected the idea.

However, Mr Le Maire said the proposition, which would allow France’s strategic interests to be preserved, remained on the table.

He said he would travel to Rome on Tuesday to discuss it with Italian government ministers.

In a statement, Mr Le Maire said the decision to nationalise the Saint-Nazaire shipyard was only temporary. However, the move gave France time to negotiate the “best conditions possible” for the participation of Fincantieri in the shipyard, he added.

Italy has hit back against the French decision to prevent Fincantieri taking a majority stake. In a joint statement, Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan and Industry Minister Carlo Calenda said: “Nationalism and protectionism are not an acceptable basis for establishing relations between two great European countries.

“To work on joint projects you need reciprocal trust and respect.”



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